Department of History

Aura Jirau Arroyo

  • Graduate Student

I graduated in May 2014 from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, with a BA in History of the Americas. My undergraduate work studied the historical influences on gendered representations in 20th century media before shifting towards history of religion. I came to Pitt in that same year, and completed my masters in Spring 2016. My MA research focused on the history of education and Catholicism in Puerto Rico, specifically on the views of liberal priest Rufo Manuel Fernández in relation the island’s mid-19th century educational panorama. It argued that thoughts like Rufo’s were in line with anti-Jesuit ideas stemming from factions of the Spanish Enlightenment. These philosophies went on to influence the development of secondary education in Spain’s remaining colonies, also exemplified by Rufo’s proposed reforms for Puerto Rico’s Seminario Conciliar (theological seminary), which served as the first secondary school in the island’s history.



Latin American History
World History
Transnational Student Movements

Teaching Experience:

HIST 0601 United States 1877 to the Present (TF for Liann Tsoukas, Fall 2016)

HIST 0301 Imperial Russia, 1865-present (TA for Scott Smith, Spring 2016)

HIST 0101 Western Civilization II (TA for Leslie Hammond, Fall 2015)

Representative Publications

Conference Presentations:

“Padre Rufo and Seminario Conciliar: Thoughts Regarding Catholic Educational Reform in Mid-Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico” Annual Meeting, Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion (2016)

“Luchas entre las Vírgenes”: Puerto Rico de los siglos XVI al XX” XIX Congress, Mexican Association of Caribbean Studies (2014)

“Este lío no es conmigo”: La imagen de la mujer en los anuncios de las revistas Puerto Rico Ilustrado y Carteles durante el año 1952” III Colloquium, Puerto Rican Association of Research in Women’s History (2014)

“Sharon Pratt’s Two Elections: Her Representation in Two American Newspapers” Puerto Rico’s First History Majors Encounter (2013)

Research Interests

PhD Dissertation Topic

Advisor: Dr. Lara Putnam

My dissertation will take the history of Puerto Rican education into the 20th century, focusing on student struggles at the university level. It will analyze the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) 1981 strike, and how its actors have memorialized its events through the use of oral history interviews. I am particularly interested in how visions of the university, its nature, and those within it, affected student activism and methods of resistance. I will also evaluate whether or not Latin American notions regarding the “autonomy” of a university setting had an impact. This line of questioning suggests a need to understand the kinds of indirect academic relationships that existed between the UPR and Latin American institutions between the 1960s and the 1970s. In addition, I will analyze the pedagogical implications of the conflict, exploring how students and faculty created a “strike pedagogy” stemming from shared social and educational struggles.